Cover Image: The Two Hundred Ghost

The Two Hundred Ghost

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Member Reviews

Overall not a bad story, but started good then got bogged down in the middle. Originally written in 1956, and reviews kept comparing it to Agatha Christie. Didn’t see that. Would recommend as it does keep you guessing, but expected more.
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Made myself keep reading and got to 80% before I said "No more".

On the plus side, despite the book having been written in the 50's, I believe, it could easily take place currently with very slight tweaks.  It was also nice to have the police actively play a role on page.  So often I read mysteries (cozies) where the police don't do anything on page, it's all the main character.  Sally, does have a big role too.  There was no shortage of possible killers, even Sally, because Butcher was totally unlikable.  The story takes place shortly after WWII and the author definitely showed how the war negatively impacted people emotionally.  I liked this realism, but it surprised me.  Though it's been years since I read older English mysteries I don't recall other writers making any attempt to incorporate this issue.  Kudos to Hamilton.

On the negative, if Butcher was so unlikable, why was he still working at the bookstore?  I think the biggest negative though, and why I finally stopped reading, is that I didn't care about Sally or any of the other characters.  They were all pretty much two-dimensional.

I received my copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
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Murder With Just a Touch of Romance
This is the first installment in the Johnny and Sally Heldar mysteries by Henrietta Hamilton. In this installment, there is a ghost in the Heldar's Antiquarian Bookstore. Who or what could it be? Johnny and Sally fall in love while solving the mystery of the ghost and the murder of a character you will love to hate. Mr. Butcher is murdered in his office, and narrowing down the suspects is going to be a tough job. I enjoyed reading this crime classic and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries, particularly those written in the classic era for crime mysteries.
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This book is part of Agora Book’s series , Uncrowned Queen of Crime.  Mystery readers know and the the handful of splendid female writers of classic crime, but Agora now is providing a treasure trove of lesser-known works that are really quite splendid. 
 In this story we have a murder in an antiquarian book shop, and more than one witness claims to have seen a ghost on the premises at the time of the crime.  Is this a car of supernatural events? Our heroine  Sally doesn’t think so but still, the sightings seem credible.  Although Scotland Yard is called in it is Sally, partnered with her new-found love Johnny, who solves the case, and finds romance as well.

I found this book to be thoroughly entertaining and well written.  My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review
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I would definitely read more books by this author! I was drawn in very quickly and warmed to both Sally and Johnny as key characters. The mystery was very intriguing and there were plenty of interesting characters who maintained my character my interest. The relationship that was developing between Sally and Johnny was a good additional element without detracting from the mystery itself. The author steered us through a well written and suspenseful story. As well as being a hit for Henrietta Hamilton it was also another hit from crime classics who have introduced me to so many wrongfully overlooked writers. Long may this continue!
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Written by Hamilton in 1956 and set in post war London this has an a wonderful sense of time and place and a sense of the loneliness of many of the characters living alone in tiny flats their families and loved ones lost in the war,the two hundred is the address in Charing Cross Road where an Antiquarian Bookshop owned by the Heldar family provides the setting for the murder,
There have been a number of 'sightings' of the ghost that supposedly haunts the premises and whilst most of the lady members of staff are sure it's someones idea of a joke they still all leave the premises en masse ,The exception is Sally Merton who is quite happy to stay late to complete her work.Unfortunately this evening she is approached by the deeply unpleasant and much disliked Mr Butcher who is keen to have 'some fun' and Sally is alone.Despite her protests she is finding it difficult to extricate herself when Fred a shell shocked war veteran who works in the despatch department comes to her aid making an enemy of Butcher.
The next morning Butcher is found dead with a knife in his back!
The police arrive and it seems no one will miss Butcher at all on the staff and more than one have strong motives for having seen off the victim.The only people concerned about him are a number of customers and dealers very anxious to see him.
The story zips along and at less than 180 pages there's no padding.The aforementioned Sally and Johnny Heldar an ex commando and a member of the Family that own the shop involve themselves in the investigation and there are of course a number of red herrings ; I w as convinced I had solved both the murder and the ghostly apparitions but was way out on the first but along the right lines for the second.
The tale is very well written as with all the golden age crime queens, with a close knit cast of characters and a story that doesn't take liberties with the reader.I really enjoyed it and will be looking out for the other 3 books in the series of Sally and Johnny Heldar books.Well done to Agora books for unearthing another forgotten queen of Crime.
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I rather enjoyed this. It was easy to read, you can tell this was written back in the 1950s due to the style and the way relationships are discussed.  This is a little known author, I understand she didn’t write many books but I’d certainly be interested in reading more about Sally and Johnny, I do hope that Agora Books publish the remaining titles. 

Thank you to Agora Books and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my review.
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This was my 2nd Johnny and Sally Heldar book to read from Henrietta Hamilton. This is the very first book she wrote with Johnny and Sally in it but here they are not married yet. 
Heldars are a firm of booksellers with exclusive clientele and a big staff from secretaries, book binders, the parcelling folk in the mail room and Sally who works on the shop floor. Johnny and his cousin Tim (who is there in the holidays from college) are the younger generation of Heldars with the senior Father William in charge. The odious Butcher as well as being the corpse is also a senior bookseller for the firm.
A few of the girls from the office have seen a ghost that is said to haunt the building. There is also a book about this ghost which may be playing on their imagination. There is a corpse discovered the next day and it was done by a knife Tim had in his office. The police are in and out of the shop throwing suspicion on everyone but in the end it is Johnny and Sally that solve the mystery.
There are some clients that come in and out of pages acting suspiciously, book thefts ongoing around London and the aforementioned ghost. It all makes for an interesting story which zips along. 
I really enjoyed the book and other than a few instances that dated the book I think it can be as relevant today with the central theme of greed. It was easy to read and I have found a new female mystery writer to add to my collection. For about half the book I thought Father William was a priest until his wife was mentioned and then I realised the moniker was a mark of respect for an elder. Maybe it was common in the 50's but it may confuse a more modern audience. The house next door was bombed in the blitz and a few characters in the war or come from Europe and are treated a little with disdain. These are the things that age the book but if you can overlook that it is still a good story and easy to read. I would thoroughly recommend reading some of these old classics. The other one I have read from this author is Answer In The Negative - a little harder to get into but still a good story
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The Two Hundred Ghost by Henrietta Hamilton is an easy read and very engaging.  It is set in mid 20th century London when men were men and women were girls.  The cast of characters work in an antiquarian bookshop which is rumored to also be home to a ghost.  The mean-spirited Mr. Butcher gets stabbed in the back and many of his co-workers draw the attention of Scotland Yard.  Our young heroes, Sally Merton and Johnny Heldar, manage to fall in love, track down the murderer, explain the ghost, expose a gang of thieves and generally show themselves to be a very modern young couple.  (He cooks!  She bravely explores!)

The denouement is heavy handed, relying on Johnny and Sally overhearing the bad guy explaining at length to a conspirator about every little detail.  However, the bookshop characters are so endearing, that even this stub of the literary toe can be tolerated.
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I had just started casting around for a Christmas Eve ghost story when I spotted The Two Hundred Ghost by Henrietta Hamilton on NetGalley. A classic crime novel set in a haunted bookshop sounded just the thing! Hamilton herself apparently worked in one of London's antiquarian bookshops for a while and she brings her experience of this environment to her book, creating an authentic location with a variety of interesting characters. This was in the days when an independent bookshop could easily support a dozen fulltime staff each of whom might have had the motive and opportunity to murder the unpopular Mr Butcher so Scotland Yard's Inspector Prescott has his work cut out to determine the culprit. While the murder investigation takes centre stage though, I appreciated Hamilton's scene-setting portrayals of post-war London. Hostilities themselves ceased a decade earlier, but unsafe bomb damaged buildings are still a common sight and no-one bats an eyelid at packer Fred's increased shell-shock agitation, indicating that his predicament was quite normal.

I liked that The Two Hundred Ghost, named for the shop's being located at 200 Charing Cross Road, neatly combines the crime fiction staples of detective fiction and independent sleuths. I got some clues via Inspector Prescott's enquiries and others through Sally's insatiable curiosity. There is a fun hint of competitiveness between the two, especially once Johnny begins to assist Sally. This is the 1950s after all so obviously her discoveries would be taken more seriously if a man were to vocalise them! I didn't realise their chaste friendship was meant to be construed as the beginning of a romance though so this came as more of a surprise than the eventual unveiling of the murderer. I enjoyed reading The Two Hundred Murderer and this opportunity to discover Henrietta Hamilton's writing. It's great that publishers such as Agora are republishing these formerly lost classics for modern readers such as myself.
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Thanks to Agora Book for a review copy.
The Two Hundred Ghost is the first of four books in the Johnny and Sally Heldar series. (Agora Books published book four in the series earlier in the year as part of their ‘Uncrowned Queens of Crime’ season.)
This novel is more of an introduction to the characters of Johnny and Sally than a fully fledged mystery but it is none the worse for that. The author breaks a number of Ronald Knox’s Ten Commandments for Detective Fiction and this could certainly not be considered a ‘fair play’ story but it is a delightful tale of mayhem and murder and a burgeoning romance in an upmarket antiquarian book store in London, owned by the Heldar family. 
The shop is alleged to be haunted by a ghost dating from the days when a pub occupied the site. Several members of staff claim to have seen the spirit and then one of their number is brutally murdered. Although the police undertake a thorough and competent investigation Johnny and Sally do some sleuthing of their own, getting to know each other better on the way.
It is always nice to see the police portrayed as sensible (and sensitive) characters in detective novels featuring amateur sleuths and this is no exception. The inspector assigned to the case may not be the most imaginative but he is careful and tolerates the whims of Johnny and Sally with relative good humour.
The solution, although satisfactory, does feel a little rushed but I think that the author did not really consider it to be the main focus of the novel as she wanted to shine a spotlight firmly on her two lead characters who were to return in future stories. In this she has succeeded admirably and by the end of the book we feel we know Johnny and Sally and will enjoy their company again when another dastardly deed need to be investigated.
As a light read I found this thoroughly enjoyable and look forward very much to books two and three being re-released in the not too distant future.
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First published in 1956, The Two Hundred Ghost  is an excellent example of the Golden Age of detective fiction.  Written  by Henrietta Hamilton  who wrote four books in her Sally and Johnny Heldar series, of which this is the first.

The title relates to the address of the antiquarian bookshop where the action takes place. It is a beautiful example of the genre, well written and with a manageable cast of characters which enable the murderer to remain well hidden, whilst the reader dashes around following red herrings all over the place. To my chagrin I had deep suspicions of a perfectly innocent man until the very end! The plot revolves around stolen books and the murder of an exceptionally unpleasant individual, who, quite frankly deserved everything that happened to him.

Really addictive entertainment,  I am delighted to say that Agora have reissued three of the four book series, all of which I have purchased.  However  the missing volume is book two and (as they include the first chapter at the end of this book), I am very hopeful that Death at One Blow will be reissued soon. Highly recommended.
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I enjoyed this rather light hearted, cozy mystery.  

The Heldar family’s antiquarian book store is located at 200 Charing Cross Road, hence the title.  Many years before, a ghost was said to roam the premises. A previous tenant had the ghost exorcised and it hasn’t been seen for many years.  However, recently the ghost has appeared again.  Sally Merton, our heroine, wonders if this ghost wasn’t a practical joke by one of the employees. Still, she has other things to worry about, namely the unpleasant attentions of an obnoxious co-worker, Mr. Butcher.  He was pretty much universally disliked, so when he is found murdered in his office, suspects abound,  Does the ghost have anything to do with this murder on the premises?  Sally is drawn into doing a little bit of investigating with Johnny Heldar, who is an ex commando.  

There isn’t a lot of investigating going on in this relatively short novel, but it had a nice flow, was easy to read, and it kept my attention.  This is the first of four books written about Sally and Johnny by this author, and the second that I have read.  Hopefully we will see the other two books republished someday as well..  

Thanks to Net Galley and Agora books for the opportunity to read and review.
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I've read another book by this author and really enjoyed it. However, I just couldn't get in to this one. It moves very slowly and has a lot of technical detail about the rare book business. Typically I plow through such issues, but this one just didn't hold my interest.
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I really, really wanted to like this book. It seemed like it would be an atmospheric read since it is set in the 1950s (which is when the book was originally written), featured a ghost, and was set in an antique book shop. I was also excited to read a novel by an  "Uncrowned Queen of Crime." 

However, I just couldn't quite get into it. For one, at the beginning, it seemed like it was just a list of people leaving the book shop, and it was difficult to keep them all straight.  I also felt like sometimes the dialogue was only there to give a laundry list of alibis and speculation about the crime, which made it a bit of a slog. I didn't feel there was a lot of character development. Sometimes I felt like the characters did things that made no sense (I'm looking at you, Fred). At no time did I ever feel that anyone actually suspected a ghost, which meant it never really had that is there/isn't there quality that can add to the atmosphere of the book. And though I wasn't reading it for the "romance," I didn't feel like that was very developed either. (As a side note, it's definitely a product of the times as far as gender roles and ideas.) 

All in all, I was a little disappointed with it. That being said, I thought the idea of it was very interesting, but I just don't think I'm the real target audience for it. I think that readers who are Agatha Christie fans will enjoy it. 

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.
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3 ½ stars really.  Had a few misgivings before I started as I have recently read ‘Answer in the Negative’ and was tempted to give up.  Quite convoluted and not that interesting.  Fortunately, this was not the case here.  Maybe because it is the first in the Heldar series when Sally & Johnny get together.  A bit dated but I do generally enjoy these classic period crime stories.  A short, easy and enjoyable read.  Set in the closed set of a London antiquarian booksellers in the 1950s.  Certainly improved my knowledge of antiquarian book terminology.  Plot involved a  lot of running up and downstairs.
Thanks to Netgalley.
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On the plus side this was an engaging read. The. characters were well defined and, apart from the villain, empathetic. The police are treated respectfully . It’s a variation on a locked door mystery with appropriate twists and turns and lines of enquiry. The romantic interest is handles subtly, hovering in the background rather than taking over the narrative.  I liked the sleuths and enjoyed the world of the  post-war antiquarian book trade. 

On the negative, the plot was a bit drawn out and the solution a touch ho hum. 

I found it an enjoyable read and was drawn into its world. I’d read more by the author - but I am a bit of a Golden Age Crime tragic. If I could I’d give it about 3.75 stars.
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The clock in the antiquarian bookstore strikes five – and within the next 45 minutes or so covered in Chapter One of The Two Hundred Ghost, by Henrietta Hamilton, most of the employees (personalities and appearances deftly sketched) come to our notice; the thoroughly dislikeable Victor Butcher forces unwanted attentions on fellow staff member Sally Merton, and bullies a lower-status employee who suffers what would today be termed PTSD; the typically sensible typist Lisa is terrified by the sight of a ghost; we learn of the murder on the premises, more than a century earlier, that allegedly led to several decades of hauntings. 

A scream in the next chapter announces the discovery the next morning of Butcher’s corpse in his own office, a commando knife in his back. The police arrive and begin a competent but largely off-scene investigation; readers follow the unfolding of events through the amateur sleuthing of Sally and bookstore junior partner Johnny Heldar.  

 Sally and Johnny are a likeable duo: not deeply characterized, but intelligent, kind-hearted, and with an obvious affection for one another which remains unspoken until almost the end of the book.  

Who killed Butcher, and with what motive? And how, if at all, is the ghost sighting related? No one among the bookstore employees mourns his death; most had ample  reason to dislike him; one is so glad at his death that she exults within the hearing of a police officer. The initial investigation focuses heavily on bookstore staff; Sally and Johnny are significantly slower than the reader to realize that instances of unexpected behavior from certain regular customers may suggest that Butcher was implicated in serious professional misconduct. I am unsure whether Hamilton did or did not intend for readers to be ahead of the sleuths in this respect.  

 As one would expect from the title of the book, the ghost sighting does indeed relate to Butcher’s murder. When Sally and Johnny discover the explanation of the ghost, they also discover the murderer. Conveniently, though not very plausibly, they make their way through a hidden passage just at the right time to hear the murderer explain the details of his crime to an accessory.  

Although such weaknesses in the plot lead me to rate this book with 4 instead of 5 stars, I enjoyed it sufficiently that I hope to read Hamilton’s subsequent three books featuring Sally and Johnny. 

Agora Books provided me with an advance copy of The Two Hundred Ghost; I appreciate this opportunity to read and review another new offering in their Uncrowned Queens of Crime releases.
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The Two Hundred Ghost was first published in 1956 and is the first book in Henrietta Hamilton’s Johnny and Sally Heldar mystery series. The unusual title refers to 200 Charing Cross Road, the address of the antiquarian bookshop in London which is owned by Johnny Heldar’s family and said to be haunted by a ghost. Sally Merton is one of the booksellers in the shop; she is not yet married to Johnny when we first meet her and has been attracting some unwelcome attention from one of the male employees, Victor Butcher. Mr Butcher is an unpleasant bully, disliked by everybody who knows him, so when he is found dead in his office with a knife in his back, there are plenty of suspects…including the ghost, which is sighted in the building shortly before the murder takes place!

This is a very short novel and the plot moves along at a steady pace, making it a quick and easy read; although, as with the other Hamilton novel I read (Answer in the Negative), I felt that there was a bit of repetition surrounding discussions of alibis, timing of events and layouts of rooms, this one has a better balance between these technical aspects of mystery-solving and the more ‘human’ aspects, such as motives and personalities. I didn’t guess who the murderer was, but I don’t think the author was unfairly holding back information from the reader and it may have been possible to solve the mystery if you were paying more attention than I was and didn’t miss any clues!

Henrietta Hamilton (a pseudonym of Hester Denne Shepherd) worked in a London bookshop in the years following World War II and had personal experience of selling antiquarian books, which gives the novel a feeling of authenticity. Bookselling is not just a background to the novel, but an important part of the plot, and the author’s knowledge and interest in ‘incunabula’ (early printed books) comes through very strongly.

I was pleased to find that Sally plays a bigger part in the investigations in this book than she did in Answer in the Negative and makes some important discoveries which prove to be turning points in the mystery – although, remembering that it was written in the 1950s, there’s always a sense that Johnny feels the need to protect her because she’s a woman. Still, both Johnny and Sally are characters who are easy to like and to care about; it was nice to get to know them before they were married and to see their relationship develop (although it does so quite subtly and their romance is only one small part of the story). Having enjoyed this book, I would like to meet the Heldars again – luckily, there are another two books in the series and I’m hoping they will be reissued soon too!
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This was like an early Christmas present.
Set in the world of an established and traditional Antiquarian Book Shop, it will be a delightful read for anyone who loves books. The location reminded me of the many antiquated bookshops in buildings across several floors and properties, where I have spent many hours and I searched the many selves. I bring to mind shops,like a treasured one in Carnforth.
Well the publishers have done the work for us in republishing forgotten authors and titles from the previous century.
Thank you! 
Also no little praise should be offered to Sophie Hannah a knowledgable writer with a passion for such books. Her introduction makes one want to read on and discover a “new” author.
Originally published in 1956 the decade I was born into, this is the first of a series of mysteries in and around the world of books by Henrietta Hamilton. The author’s real name is Hester Denne Shepherd but that was no greater help as I had never come across either name throughout my whole life of loving crime fiction. It seems a shame having cut my teeth on Agatha Christie’s mysteries as a teenager, other worthwhile books went unknown for lack of publication. At a time when books were books and no-one dreamed you could read one on a phone!

This classic 50’s period murder mystery is a wonderful throwback to a less complicated time, when a physical copy of a book was almost priceless but as one character finds out for themselves, perhaps not worth dying for.

At a time when you may think plot and dialogue were more predictable, I found to the contrary as this is both an engaging and complex thriller. The dutiful police have a number of suspects, but an arrest appears almost a crime solved, a guilty verdict at trial  and a future appointment with the hangman.

Strange times but a fascinating and quite engrossing read I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish.
The book throws up an unlikely sleuthing duo. An anxious but thoughtful sales assistant Sally, and one of her bosses Johnny Heldar. They make an interesting pairing who talk and plan actions to resolve the case.
I loved the atmosphere; an old book perhaps but original in a number of ways. Misdirection, Withholding evidence, Lying to the Police and an official enquiry that reader’s have no insight into.

I also liked the layered plot of stolen books; poor alibis and loose motives among several players. Having a victim who no-one likes is an author’s delight I feel. 
An old book is found in the shop telling of the haunted premises where the ghost may have reappeared and perhaps is involved in the new case. This is a clever subplot and is also cleverly constructed bringing uncertainty and a possible link to the present crime.

I think reading should be about balance and learning from the past can help us all appreciate better what we have now and perhaps treasure books even more.
See what you think!
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